This weekend author Anthony McGowan decided to tweet about the relevance of book bloggers. The word ‘pointless’ was used. He has since clarified (or back-tracked depending on your point of view) to say that he in fact loves book bloggers, but he doesn’t see any hard evidence for why publicists love us and that we have any impact on book sales.
Which (after I’d stopped being a monumental rage bucket) got me thinking.
I think book bloggers are incredibly important. They are a sign of the change in reading habits, of the rise of social media, of an age-old love being tugged forward into the twenty first century in new and innovative ways and also a sign of the publishing industry growing with the times and utilising all tools available to help them sell the books that they feel are important and interesting enough to share with the world.
Book reviews used to be limited to the newspapers, formal reviews in printed publications which would on the whole be written by people who may not be the intended audience and bypass reaching the people who would enjoy the book. I know that growing up I wouldn’t read these reviews. I would pick up books that friends and family told me about, that booksellers told me about, that librarians told me about. And really, isn’t that what book blogging is? Word of mouth on a much wider scale?
And that was what prompted me to start book blogging in 2010. I wanted to talk about books, the same as I had been doing since I started reading as a child, just in a different format. Social media has opened up connections and allowed people all over the world who enjoy reading similar books to talk about those books they love and introduce others to books they may never have discovered otherwise. But whilst I was blogging about the books I loved, I was also discovering the other book bloggers out there – a number that has continued to grow impressively since I first began. I found book bloggers whose taste ran the same ways as mine, whose views I now trust and if they tell me to pick up this book I’ve never heard of, I will pick up this book I have never heard of. I cannot count the number of authors and books that I have discovered, bought, loved and gone on to recommend through book bloggers.
Looking at my shelves, yes there are old favourites that I found on my own, the odd author and series I discovered by chance in a bookshop, but do you know how more than half of the books on my shelves ended up there? Because of the passion of book bloggers for these books and authors, telling me that I will love this book and why I will love it.
And publicists are clever, they wouldn’t be where they are today without being clever, and they have noticed that in this world where the internet has seeped into almost every aspect of our lives, there is a whole army of people out there who are banded together over their passion for books, and they could utilise them. What do books lovers want? Books. And if they have access to books, sometimes for free, sometimes in advance of the publication date, what will these book lovers do? They will talk about these books. They will share their love of them, they will tell people to buy them, to look out for them, they will shout out all the reasons why these books are fantastic. And they will do it for virtually nothing, because they love books and they love sharing that.
But those people who do not pay attention to the internet, who dismiss twitter as a place for those without too many brain cells, are not likely to have been paying attention to what book bloggers can do. The amount of buzz they can generate for a debut author whose book may not otherwise have been noticed and given the praise and attention it deserves. Previously established authors have not had to utilise the book bloggers at their disposal and so have not really grasped what it is they do, the amount of time they put into this for nothing more than their love of the books they talk about, and how much influence these book bloggers can have.
We talk about books, some of us have larger platforms than others, some of us reach more people than others, but all of us reach people. And if those people trust what we have to say about a book they are likely to go and pick up that book that they wouldn’t have tried otherwise. They will buy that book and generate more sales for that author, and it will all have been because some stranger on the internet who adores books decided to throw their love of books at it.
So I don’t have physical numbers for the number of books my book blog personally has helped to sell. I don’t have numbers for other book blogs and the books they have thrown their not inconsiderable weight behind and persuaded people to buy. But I have seen it happen. I have had people tell me they picked up a book on my recommendation. I know just how many books I have picked up on the recommendation of other bloggers. And I know that if book bloggers weren’t doing this, there would be a drop in sales. That some debut authors wouldn’t ever get a second book out into bookshops. That people would be missing out on books that turn out to be favourites.
I think that the publicists are onto something, they know what an influential pack book bloggers can be. And I know that a huge number of authors have also realised what the hive mind of the book blogging world can achieve. It’s just a shame that there are still some people out there who think what we do is pointless, and feel they can use their own social media to make us feel like what we are doing is pointless. Maybe they should try out the world of the book bloggers, have a look around and see the numbers of people that we reach, and realise that we are not pointless. We are helping them sell their books, whether they realise it or not.